After a one week reprieve from a difficult opening schedule, the Falcons have to follow the Panthers with a Week 9 tilt against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chargers, of course, are a team on the rise. With borderline elite quarterback Justin Herbert under center and plenty of playmakers stacking up on both sides of the ball, they’re fresh off a 9-7 season and are hoping to truly arrive this year. That will be challenging, given that they’re playing in an AFC West where every team has a legitimate shot at being good, but the talent here is undeniable.
The Falcons will be hosting them in Week 9. Can they follow up a win over the Panthers—yes, willing it into reality—with an upset of the Chargers? Our staff roundtable weighs in belows, and then we’re looking for your input.
Falcons 24 - Chargers 31
The Chargers are perhaps not the ideal aspirational target for what the Falcons could be, but they’re a good one. This is a team that found its young franchise quarterback, has patiently built a pretty good roster, and appears to be ready to contend even in a bonkers AFC West after going 9-8 a year ago. They’re a quality, tough opponent.
That said, I think I’m probably overly optimistic thinking the Falcons can and will keep this one close, but this is the part of the season where I think Atlanta will have found its stride a bit. I also think the Chargers, who will be fresh off a bye, are just too good for Atlanta to actually triumph against barring a pretty significant injury problem for Los Angeles.
At this point, the Falcons are 3-6. —Dave Choate
Falcons 13 - Chargers 34
I’m bullish on both the Falcons and the Chargers in entirely different ways. I think the former could ultimately wind up below its 2021 win total of seven games but still look like a team on the uptick; I think the latter has a shot to win the Super Bowl. Although I expect Atlanta to play a more inspiring brand of football against the better teams on its schedule this year, I think a few things could really work against the Falcons here.
The Chargers have to come across the country to the East Coast for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff - something that often favors the home team - however, they have the benefit of a bye week in Week 8, so they should have plenty of time to get acclimated if they desire to. The Falcons, meanwhile, will still have yet to receive a week off and there is at least a possibility that Desmond Ridder is getting his look at this point in the season.
Los Angeles’ defense should be much better, so I don’t anticipate a rookie quarterback in what would likely be one of his first few starts having much success. If Marcus Mariota is still at the helm, I could tack on another touchdown to the Falcons’ total, but I think this could be one of the team’s uglier games of the season. —Will McFadden
Falcons 17 - Chargers 31
Am I expecting a blowout? Yes. Do I think it will be this close only due to some garbage time points by Atlanta? Also yes. I can’t find a good match-up here. As noted by Will, the Chargers fly to the East Coast, but they are coming off of a bye. The Chargers will be rested, tape will be studied, and they’ll probably land in Atlanta a few days early to deal with the time change.
Outside of that potentially slight edge, the Chargers have the edge everywhere else. A stout defense and a tough offense headlined by Justin Herbert. The Chargers can jump out to an early lead and the Falcons are not built to battle back. Further, teams should have ample tape on Mariota at this point — meaning any early-season heroics should be held in check. We may be seeing Desmond Ridder getting his welcome to the NFL moment. Either way, I can’t see any way for the Falcons to pull out a win or even compete. The NFL is unpredictable but suggesting otherwise goes against common sense. — Matt Chambers
Falcons 23 - Chargers 31
I’ve been sort of a fan of the Los Angeles Chargers, from afar, for awhile. They’re like the AFC version of the Falcons. No matter what kind of roster they have, or how good their quarterback is, they just seem to be cursed. The 2021 version of the team missed the playoffs at 9-8 after a 1-4 finish, including two overtime losses (to the Chiefs and Raiders) and a mind-numbing 12-point loss to the Texans.
The 2022 version of the Chargers should be better. Los Angeles should be a playoff contender. But this team is hard to trust, and hard to figure out. That’s why I think the Falcons will absolutely find themselves in this game with a chance to win it late. I’m not bold enough to predict an outright win, but this is definitely one of those games where I’d be watching for an upset. The Chargers are the AFC Falcons, after all. —Kevin Knight